Field Hockey Wins League Title: First Time Since 2000

trish_o_dwyer_gsThe field hockey team had a weekend for the books on So Sweet A Cat Field. The Hawks faced two conference contenders, Siena College and Bryant University, both crucial games needed to solidify first place in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). On Friday, the Hawks defeated the Siena Saints 9-1 and on Sunday, they topped the Bryant Bulldogs 4-0 to celebrate 'senior day.' The victories put them at a new MAAC record of 4-1, making them the 2014 regular season MAAC champions.

With the final two regular season games at their fingertips, the Hawks went into the weekend level-headed.

"Our mindset going into the weekend was to take one game at a time. We knew that being co-regular season champions meant that we had to win both games, so we took it each game at a time. This week we really worked on stringing passes together and executing on all of our attacking opportunities," said senior forward and captain Amanda Schoenfeld.

Friday's first half consisted of plenty of attacking opportunities. The Hawks had a comfortable four-goal lead, one that began just two minutes into the game. Senior midfielder Trish O'Dwyer found the cage off of a give-and-go from Schoenfeld. Five minutes later, freshman forward Meg Donahue capitalized on the rebound of Siena goalkeeper Mary Drabich. With a two-goal lead the Hawks never lost momentum.

In the 15th minute of play, junior midfielder and captain Cori Allen powered through the circle and fired a shot past the Siena goalkeeper. With ten minutes remaining in the first half, O'Dwyer dribbled to the corner and connected with Schoenfeld again. Schoenfeld received the cross and put it away to make the score 4-0. The Saints found few opportunities for their offense, but put themselves on the board in the last five minutes of the half. Senior midfielder Callie Weise fired a shot into the far right corner for the Saints, making the score 4-1.

Less than two minutes into the second half, the Hawks added another score to the board. Sophomore midfielder Alyssa Ercolino inserted the corner and freshman defender Julie Laszlo crushed the cage. Nearly five minutes later, freshman forward Maartje Wicherink tipped the ball to Donahue, earning her second goal of the day.

MU maintained the five-goal lead for a few more moments until O'Dwyer scored two more goals to earn herself a hat trick; the first unassisted was off a turnover while the second, sent from Schoenfeld, was on an open net. It was in the 66th minute when the Hawks put the nail in the coffin. Wicherink connected with Schoenfeld in the circle for a cross-tip combination. The Hawks walked away with a satisfying 9-1 victory, anticipating a crucial game against Bryant University.

On Sunday, the Hawks came out on fire as they were determined to end the weekend well, especially for the seniors. MU began with automatic offensive pressure, earning a goal in the first 12 minutes. Off of a corner, Ercolino deflected O'Dwyer's initial shot to goal to put the Hawks up 1-0. In the 17th minute, seniors O'Dwyer and Allen swept a give-and-go around the Bryant's defense to find the cage. In the 24th minute, the Bulldogs penetrated the MU circle twice but goalkeeper Christen Piersanti denied, maintaining the shutout into the second half.

The final half of the weekend came with some added flavor. With Siena College's victory over Rider University, the Hawks learned that the next 35 minutes were crucial. If they could hold the lead, they would host the MAAC tournament next week. Twenty-one minutes in, senior forward Schoenfeld took fate into her own hands. Ercolino's cross into the top of the circle ended with her beautiful reverse deflection to cage. The Hawks now had a lead of 3-0. With 7:15 remaining in the game, the seniors did not let down. O'Dwyer sent the ball high to Allen for a hard drive on cage. Allen solidified the win at 4-0 for the Hawks.

The MU offense controlled the game, outnumbering Bryant in corner attempts 13-4. This is the second time in program history that the Hawks have earned the regular season title (last in 2000). The 2014 senior class have guided the Hawks to 39 total wins and two conference title game appearances.

"It's incredible. The past four years we have worked so hard as a team and to finally be able to come back to this turf next weekend and possibly have a title is just the best feeling. It's the best way to finish off my career here," praised Schoenfeld.

The Hawks will host the MAAC Field Hockey Championships on So Sweet A Cat Field beginning on Friday, Nov. 7 in hopes of earning the 2014 season title.

PHOTO COURTESTY of MU Athletics Greg Ott